There are very few players that are considered a “sure thing” in the crapshoot known as the NFL Draft. It’s impossible to predict the value of a player coming out of college, but everyone seemed to be dead set that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was the real deal. The Colts, despite rumors that they were going to select Robert Griffin III, selected Luck with the first overall pick in the strange 2012 NFL Draft.
The Colts thrust Luck into the starting position right away, having just come off of a 2-14 season with not much talent around him. Through nine weeks in the 2016 NFL season, Luck has posted a career record of 39-25 with 271.9 yards per game, 118 touchdowns and 62 interceptions. Those are some very impressive numbers, especially when you consider the weapons that Luck has had surrounding him.
Outside of T.Y. Hilton and a couple of solid pass catching tight ends, Luck has had to pick from a slew of aging receivers and no-namers to throw the ball to. So in his short career, who are the worst receivers and tight ends that Luck has had to work with? Here are the 15 worst of the bunch, who combined to be either have a lack of production or completely disappointed despite expectations.
15 Griff Whalen
There were never really any big expectations for Griff Whalen, as he was hardly a standout at Stanford for four years before the Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2012. The Colts likely signed Whalen to help Luck feel more comfortable with his college teammates, which included Coby Fleener (who just didn’t make this list).
Whalen would end up cracking the starting lineup in his second season after not getting any playing time during his rookie campaign, but wouldn’t have a significant impact for the Colts. In three seasons, Whalen was able to put up just 45 catches for a combined 487 yards and three touchdowns. Now, Whalen is a member of the Chargers, though most outside of San Diego probably didn’t know that.
14 Chester Rogers
It might be a little too early to point out Chester Rogers for the list, especially with the expectations not being set too high for the wideout. Rogers was a member of Grambling State’s football team in college and the Colts picked up his contract after nobody selected him in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Rogers has filled in his position nicely, but the Colts need some serious weapons and Rogers probably isn’t the answer. Through the first nine weeks of the 2016 NFL season, Rogers had posted 11 receptions with 156 yards and no touchdowns, while starting two games. While that sounds decent for an undrafted rookie, Rogers only has a catch rate of 57.9%. Hopefully Rogers improves to the point where he is no longer on this list, but the Colts haven’t had the best track record in recent years.
13 Da'Rick Rogers
Da’Rick Rogers decided to skip his senior season as Tennessee Tech and had a good showing at the 2013 NFL Combine, only to go undrafted. The Bills would pick up Rogers for a brief period, but released him during training camp. The Colts picked Rogers up for their practice squad and then promoted him to the active roster in November 2013. Rogers would play in just five games, starting three, with Andrew Luck and the Colts, posting 14 receptions and 192 yards.
Before he could play in the 2014 season, the Colts decided to release Rogers after he was arrested for a DUI. The Chiefs snagged Rogers a few months later, but dropped him before he could play a game. Now, Rogers is a member of the Canadian Football League on the Toronto Argonauts.
12 LaVon Brazill
Not only did the Colts pick up Andrew Luck in the 2012 NFL Draft, they tried to surround him with as many weapons as possible. Not only were tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen the next two selections after Luck, they then drafted T.Y. Hilton and eventually LaVon Brazill in the sixth round out of Ohio.
Brazill played in 15 games during his rookie season and then 10 in his second season. Though he would never pick up a start, Brazill did see the field a lot and had just 23 receptions and 347 yards in those two seasons, finding the end zone three times. Brazill had some off of the field problems and was cut after violating the substance policy for a second time. Brazill landed with the Argonauts for a couple of months before heading to the Arena Football League and hasn’t really been heard from since.
11 Weslye Saunders
The Colts have done a decent job of providing Andrew Luck with some solid tight ends, but not all of them have been hits. Weslye Saunders was yet another undrafted player on the list so far and he was a former member of the South Carolina Gamecocks program. Saunders was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers for his rookie season in 2011, where he actually got to start six games, but posted four catches and 29 yards in 16 total games.
Saunders was released by the Steelers for the first few weeks of the 2012 season when he got busted for using Adderall and was then signed by the Colts. Saunders would play in 11 games, pulling in two catches for 15 yards. He would then play in just seven more games thanks to a lack of production and more suspensions, ending his Colts career with six catches and 61 yards total.
10 Devin Street
While a lot of guys on the list so far haven’t even been drafted, that’s not the case for Devin Street. Street came out of Pitt and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, where he would put up a grand total of just nine catches and 132 yards with a touchdown. Street would land on the New England practice squad for just two weeks before the Colts decided to add him to the roster for 2016 on September 21.
Street hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time with the Colts, playing in just two games so far in 2016 through the first nine weeks of the season. Street has just one catch for 20 yards and that has come on six targets. He might get more playing time, but don’t count on it.
9 Josh Cribbs
At one point, there was no denying that Josh Cribbs was a very good kick returner. The former undrafted free agent spent his first eight seasons in the NFL with Cleveland, where he would amass more than 10,000 kick return yards and 2,154 punt return yards. He would also prove to be a somewhat capable receiver in 2011, posting 41 catches and 518 yards. Then, in 2013 with the Jets, Cribbs would get just 63 reception yards.
Knowing that his skills had diminished, the Colts still decided to sign Cribbs to a contract deep in the 2014 season. Cribbs did not make much of an impact as a receiver as he had just one catch for eight yards. While he was a decent punt and kick returner, it still wasn’t enough in terms of being a skill player.
8 Dominique Jones
Dominique Jones was yet another guy that was brought in during Andrew Luck’s rookie campaign of 2012. Jones had went undrafted the year before out of Shepherd, and played with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League. The Colts would pick up Jones’s contract in 2012, allowing him to play in four games and then he would play in six games for Indianapolis in 2013.
Jones had three starts in that span, getting just four balls thrown his way. Jones would haul in three of those passes, totalling 42 yards and no trips to the end zone. Jones has since played with Kansas City and Denver, and is now a member of the Dolphins. Jones finally got his first career touchdown in 2016 with the Dolphins in week nine against the Jets.
7 Nathan Palmer
If you like random 2012 guys that came in once the Colts cleared house, you’ve really come to the right place. Nathan Palmer is yet another one of those players from the first Andrew Luck season, as the Colts pulled him from the 49ers practice squad. The former Northern Illinois product would play in five games for the Colts at receiver, getting four targets.
Sadly, for Palmer, he would catch just one of those balls and it would be a completion for negative four yards. Palmer bounced in and out of the active roster list after an injury, and he has since signed with and been released by the Dolphins, Broncos, Patriots, Bears and Raiders. Assuming he never plays again, you can at least say that you have four more career yards than this former Colt.
6 Donnie Avery
Now we’re getting into the group of guys that did not meet expectations (since there weren’t any for poor Nathan Palmer). Donnie Avery is the first of that group, who had brought some excitement after his first two seasons with the Rams in which he posted 100 receptions and 1,263 yards to go with eight touchdowns. Avery was a Titan for the 2011 season, not starting a game, but then the Colts would sign him to be a starter in...you guessed it...2012.
Avery would start in 15 games for the Colts, playing in all 16 games. That’s not exactly how you want to introduce your franchise quarterback to the league. Avery would finish with 781 yards, which was a career high, but not exactly what the Colts were looking for. By the next season, Avery was with the Chiefs and played his final two seasons there before retiring after the 2014 season.
5 Donte Moncrief
The Colts were looking to retool their wide receiver corps in 2014, so they selected Donte Moncrief out of Ole Miss in the third round. Moncrief was expected to crack the starting lineup somewhat early, but he would start just two games in his rookie season. He hauled in 32 catches for 444 yards and three touchdowns, at least providing a little hope for the Colts in the next season.
Moncrief would again play in all games in 2015, starting in 10 of them. He finished with 733 yards and six touchdowns this time around. Moncrief has played in just four games so far through week nine of the 2016 season thanks to injury. He has not gotten more than 64 yards in a game so far this season and doesn’t appear to be having the breakthrough season that most hyped up receivers do in their third year. Aside from being a red zone threat, Moncrief leaves something to be desired.
4 Phillip Dorsett
While Donte Moncrief has been a mild disappointment for the Colts so far, Phillip Dorsett is starting to look like a bust already. Dorsett didn’t crack the starting lineup once in 2015 despite being a first round draft pick, catching just 18 passes on 39 targets for a total of 225 yards and one touchdown. Colts fans were scratching their heads with the selection in the first place and his rookie season didn’t help.
The former Miami Hurricane hasn’t done a lot to increase optimism in his second year, but he at least has more yards through the first nine weeks (314) than he had in his entire rookie season. Still, the Colts needed a better starting option at wide receiver and it doesn’t look like they have found it with Dorsett. Currently, he is splitting time with guys like Chester Rogers.
3 Darrius Heyward-Bey
Before the Colts had even signed Darrius Heyward-Bey (or even thought about it), he was being labeled as a bust when the Raiders drafted him seventh overall in 2009. The tides started to turn for Heyward-Bey in his third season when he posted 975 receiving yards, but that would be his career high by far. In 2012, he would have 606 yards and five touchdowns when the Colts offered him a one year deal worth $2.5 million.
Heyward-Bey was given a chance to start 11 games and he played in all 16. Despite that, he would receive just 29 passes (on 64 targets), for a grand total of only 309 yards and a touchdown. Obviously, the Colts weren’t ready to welcome him back for a second year, opting not to re-sign him. Heyward-Bey has been a member of the Steelers ever since, though he hasn’t made much of an impact there either.
2 Hakeem Nicks
Boy, did Hakeem Nicks have us all fooled there for quite a bit. Nicks was a former first round pick out of North Carolina in 2009 by the Giants. In just six starts during his rookie year, Nicks would get 790 yards and then follow it up with a pair of seasons of over 1,000 yards. Nicks would then regress in 2012 and put up a decent season in 2013 with 896 yards. The Colts were hoping he could rebound in 2014, signing him to a one year and $4 million deal.
While Nicks played in every game, he would start just six times in 2014, collecting just 405 yards on 38 catches. Nicks found the endzone four times, but was not productive enough to be worth the contract that Indy provided him. The Colts decided not to give Nicks any more money and he played just one more season in the league, signing with the Giants in 2015.
1 Andre Johnson
If this were a list of the best receivers that Andrew Luck has ever had and you looked at their entire careers, Andre Johnson would be toward the top of the list. However, we are judging this based solely off of his time in Indianapolis, which was less than stellar. After being released by the Texans, the Colts decided to sign Andre Johnson to a three year contract worth $21 million.
By that time, Johnson was already 34 years old, though he was just one season removed from a 1,407 yard campaign. What the Colts paid all that money for was just one season where Johnson collected 503 yards and 41 catches. No, he did not miss any games, those were his numbers over a 16 game span (with 14 starts). The Colts would then release Johnson, who played just a handful of games more with Tennessee before calling it quits.